jazz guitar improvisation:  MORE OPTIONS
Additional options can lead to new direction once a comfort level with the basic diagrams is achieved.

Here find options for larger steps across the fret board & for Altered diagrams (described by Suspended Harmony Chart, below) may conveniently occur for beginning and ending phrases.

For larger leaps, proceed from any of 7 colored diagrams in Column I (see image at RIGHT) to any diagram relative to it's fret board position in Column II. For example, the arrows indicate 'some' of the possible optional diagrams that would follow a blue chord. Then find your newly arrived at colored diagram back in Column I and continue through any of the options indicated in the same manner.

Note that larger jumps are more difficult though not impossible to maintain melodic integrity through and are therefore recommended after pauses, beginning a new phrase. The basic system diagrams, shown at the far left of this page indicate the options from the use of Columns I & II (right) that most readily maintain melodic integrity by use of shorter jumps across the fret board as described in previous chapters labeled "BEGINNING MUSICIANS" and "INTERMEDIATE APPROACH" .

Alternating descending chord change options from those described by the use of basic Columns (shown left) with the "Columns I & II" option of a chord followed by another in the very same fret will produce an example of line progressions. (an ascending or descending line of notes within a chord progression).

MOVING IN THIRDS: Shown at the right, (below columns I & II) is a two column chart showing the ascending and descending options from Columns I & II for intervals that are one step larger than those shown in the basic diagrams at the left. Many of the options include at least some smaller intervals that can potentially facilitate melodic improvisation. Melodic sequences will flow but not as readily as with the use of options from the diagrams at the left of the page. Melodic lines do occasionally span MINOR THIRD INTERVALS (moving three frets, skipping over two).

With development of dexterity, the Ear begins to participate and the music begins.

Chromatic Circle of 5ths & Tri-tone Substitution

Just a reminder, for use of the system, fluidity with use of the basic options already described comes first. As for additional system options on this page, the described use of the diagrams significantly outweighs the defining of terminologies.

Raising an assigned chord option by a half step in pitch (occasionally) and then continuing from that point with basic options carries a progression down a flat 5th interval (rather than a 5th) between consecutive roots of chords which essentially converts your chromatic circle of 5ths into a diatonic circle of 5ths. If this option is used within phrases, it works better as a substitute for a descending (in pitch) option; this would create smaller intervals which are more effective for melody.

Raising an assigned chord option by a half step in pitch and then immediately returning to a chord that would have followed the chord that the raised chord had been substituted for (like a temporary step outside the tonality) qualifies as a tri-tone substitution. The return to the original tonality should create a resolution. Exiting and returning the tonality via the shorter interval options is works smoothly. See more about resolution under SUSPENDED HARMONY below.

Raising an assigned chord option by a half step in pitch in a descending progression, when combined with the use of other short interval options may be one way to enhance line-progressions, utilizing the melodic character of short intervals between high notes.

Similarly, the abundance of different notes and the frequent key changes that occur in this system's style, dictate that harmonic analysis of any given chord structure can vary depending on what note is being heard as the root at a given time. For this reason, a similar logic to that which allows tri-tone substitution also supports the validity of altering an assigned chord by lowering it a half step. As an apparent step outside the tonality, temporary or otherwise, these options work fine and again, are affected smoothly if the shorter interval options are chosen.

ACCESS SYSTEM DIAGRAMS in a "Sized for Printing" version that also be Viewed Off-Line


SUSPENDED HARMONY: Shown below is another group of diagrams to which the same logic may be applied as the diagrams in the main section of this lesson.

These SUSPENDED harmony diagrams are based on a six note scale with a characteristic omitted 3rd; rather than 7 notes they create a sound with more resolution or restfulness. Thinking of them as a restful as a resolution is all that's needs to be a concern.

They are not as easy to fret as the MAJOR diagrams so they're used in a different way.

Fretting any 4 or 5 notes with your left hand rather than all six may be one solution but fretting all six is recommended for the sake of simplicity. With some effort, it gets easier pretty quickly. To fret all six notes, here is the recommended fingering for ALL diagrams, (MAJOR AND SUSPENDED)

"Always use your pinky to hold down two (and only 2) of the highest pitched strings & always use your index finger to fret the lowest notes. . . except for while using the INDIGO (darker bluish) colored diagram who's two highest notes are not in the same fret."
This fingering is recommended so your other fingers will be in position to alternate between the major and suspended more readily.

The original MAJOR diagrams are easier to fret and better suited for the "necessary," "fast left hand changes" so while phrasing around the fret board using MAJOR diagrams insert or blend options from these SUSPENDED diagrams during pauses. With the more difficult suspended fingerings, arriving at them after a brief stop at their corresponding colored major diagram smoothes things over. By arriving at them from their corresponding major colored diagram they aren't too much more of a stretch if you are using the recommended fingering.

These SUSPENDED harmony diagrams provide momentary resolution for their respective corresponding colored MAJOR diagrams. Know them 'good' enough to insert between phrases.

Once mobility is established through the basic options for the MAJOR diagrams, try to finish each line with a resolution, that is, substitute or include a suspended diagram at pauses.


 For the Ambitious Only: Note that, as the arrows below indicate, it is reasonable to apply the same logic to the 'suspended' harmony diagrams as is described previously for the 'major' diagrams. However because of some difficult fingerings, attempting to use these diagrams in that way may slow things down considerably. "Most" of the SUSPENDED diagram fingerings though,  are not actually so difficult. The system allows enough freedom to avoid the more difficult fingerings and take advantage of the more finger friendly areas a large part of the time, The exception would be when reaching either end of the fret board limits options. Substituting MAJOR options will suffice. Adjustment in rhythm or emphasis is part of the game. The ear has the last word.

This is an example of a chord change from one color to another using the large interval options. This example applies to either the basic Major Diagrams or the Suspended Diagrams shown here.
(the chords are movable so for the described solo style, starting with any color in any fret will do)
>>=>The arrows are there to indicate (as an example) that for
a green chord that follows a blue chord when the blue chord has been played with your index finger holding down the blue bass string note the 7th fret """" the green chord would be played with your index finger holding down the green bass string note on the 10th fret. Likewise, any other colored diagram works if played on the fret indicated in the second column relative to it's fret board location to the location of the preceding chord in the first column.
The two columns to on the right side of the page isolate the short interval options that happen to be the most useful options from the two columns on the left side.
As those arrows indicate, the next chord is always one or two frets away. They are the most useful because most melodies consist of small intervals.

The larger intervals options indicated by the columns at the left are more useful between phrases. Primarily, become very familiar with the options indicated by the two columns on the right hand side of the page.

copyrightę1999-2006 Frank Spagnolo


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